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Employee Spotlight on Eric Hanson, Vista Outdoor

Few people choose their career based on one of their own mistakes. For Eric Hanson, Manager, AX Development and Administration at Vista Outdoor, his mistake carved his path.

“I was working as credit analyst when I was 19 years old and a transaction I entered crashed the system,” he said. “It amazed me how one small action had such a great impact to the business. We were down for more than 8 hours. I sat with the developer the entire time as he stepped through the troubleshooting process.”

He was hooked on IT from then on.

Eric currently manages the Ammunition ERP discipline and supports applications and integrations. He has been with the company over 15 years, starting at ATK prior to the spin to Vista Outdoor.
Since his debut as a 19-year-old watching a developer patch an error, Eric says he has been a part of a number of challenges in his IT career.

“As one of my previous leaders eloquently stated, ‘IT is hard,’” he said.
Eric mentioned one of the recent projects he worked through with his team: a project that proved to be the most challenging and rewarding of his career.

His team was responsible for upgrading the MAX ERP system and implementing a new distribution system in the DCE in Anoka at the same time. 

“The project literally touched all aspects of the ammunition business and introduced changes that were culturally difficult. I have never overcome a challenge without someone else’s help. And there were a lot of ‘someones’ in this project,” he said. 

But overcoming this great accomplishment isn’t something he’d spend much time proudly standing alone in the spotlight.

“I don’t take credit for the accomplishments like these,” he said. “All I did was serve my teams and actively participate in their challenges, frustrations, and celebrations.”

If he sounds like a good leader, you’re right. So where did he pick up on the style?

Eric underwent an Organizational Leadership Program at Bethel University in Minnesota, featuring a curriculum that focused on Servant Leadership. 

“Working through that program was the first time in my career I thought a leadership role was in reach and I could be effective. At its core, Servant Leadership means developing relationships based on authentic communication, serving your teams and putting them first,” he said.

Outside of work, Eric has led groups to do other amazing work, and (bonus!) he involved a Camp Chef smoker, as well.
“One of my most fulfilling accomplishments – other than raising six children – was starting a Food Service Ministry at our church. Our church has a beautiful commercial kitchen that wasn’t being used to its full potential. Something came over me and I felt inspired to start a Food Service Ministry to support our attendees, as well as our other ministries,” he explained.

That “something” that came over him was likely the love he has for cooking. Eric spent years as a young child watching his grandmother create homemade specialties on the family farm. From there, he went on to work as a cook in high school and into college.

Good experience to think about starting a Food Service Ministry, but still a far cry from the knowledge and skillset it would eventually take to serve 250+ people at a Mother’s Day Brunch. 

Eric started reaching out to friends and other members of the church, asking whether they were interested in volunteering. 

“A friend’s mom worked for a licensed caterer and agreed to consult us. The knowledge she brought to the ministry was invaluable. The coolest part is, she still attends the church today. She was just one of the 22 Food Service volunteers that made our effort a success,” he said.

Eric and the crew prepped food for about 20 events over a couple of years prior to COVID, including Easter breakfasts, Volunteer Appreciation Dinners, and Fall and Spring events, the biggest of which was the Mother’s Day brunch where they served more than 250 people. At that meal, the group prepared pulled pork – smoked on a Camp Chef pellet grill, among other things.

“I remember stepping out of the kitchen that day and seeing a full church: families and friends and the hustle and bustle that 250 people bring to a large room. I watched with gratefulness, the 22 volunteers who were giving up a portion of their Mother’s Day celebration doing their thing to make the event possible. I was humbled. It was all so much bigger than me,” he said.


Fast Facts:

How you’d spend a day off with no obligations:
Depends on the time of year, but would either be on the golf course, lake (both winter or summer), or hunting.

What a person needs to be happy in your opinion?
Purpose, without it there is no purpose.

Claim to Fame?
I was a sportswriter for a local newspaper.

Lifelong goal or bucket list item?
Canoe the Boundary Waters 

Something your co-workers don’t know about you?
I have a 40 gallon cast iron Booya pot which I used to make Booya as an event in the Fall.  

Advice to the younger you?
Don’t worry so much.

When you started your career, where did you plan to end up?
Someone once told me there are two paths in life, there is a hard one and an easy one. Guess which one I took.